Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the move from level 4 to level 3 a “big time” and said the government was “getting the country back on its feet”.
Level 3 means that the virus is in “general circulation” while level 4 means that the transmission is high or increasing exponentially.
The move to level 3 has been recommended by the government’s joint biosafety center and approved by chief medical officers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Johnson announced a review of the 2-meter social distance rule on Sunday, involving economists and scientists, but is under pressure from many Conservative MPs to repeal it immediately to help kick-start the economy.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith called on the Prime Minister to change the rule.
“Scientists now think it is above it and other countries have already gone 1 meter,” he said. “It is high time that we address this problem so that businesses, schools and hospitals can start operating at full capacity.”
Business groups have warned that the rule would prevent the reopening of at least a third of pubs and restaurants, risking the collapse of thousands of businesses.
More than 1 million jobs in pubs, restaurants and hotels would be threatened if the rule remained unchanged, according to Kate Nicholls, head of the professional organization UKHospitality.
According to the government’s “roadmap” for easing regulations in England, released in May, the hotel industry is expected to reopen by July 4. This timetable has not yet been confirmed by the ministers.
Pub owners said they were running out of time, with some threatening to break the law by reopening on July 4, regardless of government directives.
“I open on July 4, even if it means that I am in prison on [the] fifth by breaking the law, “said a pub owner. “A multitude of companies are going to the wall this week, incredible operators, and unless we open, the industry will implode. “
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Small business owners fear that they will be disproportionately affected by the 2-meter social distance rule.
In a letter to Secretary of Business Alok Sharma, the Federation of Small Business said that up to one-fifth of businesses “do not believe they can reopen in a manner consistent with current safe work advice, including social distancing ”.
Many small businesses, she added, saw the 2-meter social distance rule as the biggest obstacle to reopening.
“Small businesses generally have generally small premises, and there are also many small stores where small businesses cannot open,” said the FSB.
Meanwhile, the government is moving closer to the “travel lane” agreement with some European countries, including France, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
These nations could then be exempted from the UK’s requirement that people arriving in the country be quarantined for two weeks.
The ministers hope to be able to announce travel lanes with certain European countries on June 29, with the arrangements taking effect on July 4, the Daily Telegraph reported.
British government insiders have said agreements with European countries will still depend on levels of Covid-19 infection.